Youth is being served on the La Grande girls golf team.

And through two early-season tournaments, that youth also has potential and high hopes.

The Tigers are taking to the course this season with no seniors, just one junior in Baylee McNeil and a handful of sophomores.

But the possibilities for the group excite head coach Cally Goss.

“I’ve seen so much improvement in a year’s time,” Goss said. “I see so much potential in this young group because they truly love to play the game of golf. They are self motivated and want to be successful.”

The Tigers, of course, lost defending state champion Trinity McCarthy to graduation from a team that finished fifth at the state tournament.

In the early stages of 2018, the returners are making strides to drop their respective scores and help the team post numbers similar to last year when McCarthy was leading the charge.

“Her scores were 20-30 less than our No. 2 player (last year),” Goss said of McCarthy. “Already our team scores have dropped from last year because of their improvement. They’re already stepping up to make up for those strokes.”

Case in point? The Tigers’ season-opening effort nearly two weeks ago in Lewiston, Idaho. LHS saw two players — Tori Bowen and Alyssa Schelin — both break 100 with rounds of 98, and the team posted a score of 407. La Grande’s score on the same course a year ago was 433. And that was with a round of 80 from McCarthy.

“Last year they were thrilled to be around 110, 115. This year at this point, they want to be 99 or less,” Goss said.

The coach has aspirations for a lot more, as well.

“I could see (players on) this team, as the season progresses, getting down into the 80s,” she said.

Another trait of the team this season is its balance. While Bowen and Schelin led the way in the opening tournament, Morgan Tussey posted the top score three days later at the Hermiston Invitational with a score of 104. She had been fourth on the team at Lewiston.

It’s an indicator that there could be competition ahead of each tournament to see who are the Nos. 1-5 golfers, and who may be left home.

“They’re competitive, in a good way, among each other,” Goss said. “They’re ranking switches because of their ability. Any one of the top six could be 1-5 (on the team) in a tournament.”

Along with McNeil, Tussey, Bowen and Schelin, Katie Williams and Alexyss Chamberlain will be
consistently in the mix for La Grande.

Williams was third on the team in both tournaments, while Chamberlain missed the first one but was fifth for the Tigers in Hermiston.

“They’re all progressing at a similar rate,” Goss said.

McNeil was fifth for La Grande at Lewiston. The junior said her focus early on has been on dropping her own score, but said she does see some of the friendly competition amongst her teammates.

“I would say there’s a little bit (of competition),” she said. “I wouldn’t know how each person sees it but there’s a little.”

Emma Simpson, also a sophomore, is out for the sport for the first time, but is already making strides, according to Goss.

The team is also ambitious, hoping to be in the mix for a district title this spring and a berth to state.

“We were really close last year to getting in the top four,” McNeil said. “Right now we’re hoping we can get into the top four. That’s one of our main goals.”

The Tigers take the course at home in the La Grande Invitational April 10 for their only home tournament. The district tournament is May 7 and 8 in Pendleton.

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